The first phase of local council elections began yesterday in the disputed Kashmir region, the first local polls since 2005.
Political separatist leaders and rebel groups, who challenge India's sovereignty over Kashmir called for a boycott, saying the polls are an illegitimate exercise under a military occupation.
Armed police and soldiers guarded over 800 polling stations across the Indian-held portion of the disputed region as government forces laid razor wire and erected steel barricades on roads.
A curfew was in effect in parts of the city of Srinagar to prevent anti-India protests. Shops, businesses and most schools were closed as part of a strike called by separatist leaders.
Nearly 1.7 million residents are registered as voters for the urban polls. Village council elections will be held separately in November.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both countries claim it in its entirety. The dispute about Kashmir, one of the oldest on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council, along with Palestine, erupted between India and Pakistan after partition in 1947. Since then, more than 94,000 Kashmiris have been killed in clashes, according to Pakistani authorities.
Most Kashmiris support unifying the divided region either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country while participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
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